Most of the teachers under the employment of the Edo State government Saturday shunned the controversial competency test organised for them by the state, leaving only a little over two hundred school teachers to participate.
Seventy-three teachers were accredited in Edo south, while about 14 and 12 were accredited in Edo central and north respectively in the test scheduled to hold simultaneously in the three senatorial districts.
The test ordered by Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s government for public school teachers in the state, was meant to determine the eligibility of the over 13, 000 teachers in the employment of the state government to continue as teachers in its schools.
Counsel to Academic Staff Union of Secondary School (ASSUS), Bar. Olayiwola Afolabi who was at the accreditation venue, expressed displeasure over the State government’s decision to go ahead with the competency test even when a subsisting court injunction ruled otherwise.
He debunked allegation credited to the State commissioner for Information, Loius Odion that the Court order was not served on the state government, adding that the Court order was pasted on the walls of their offices when they were evading them.
“The moment you fail to obey court order, it is contempt of court. Edo state government is not above the law. It is on record that a former Attorney-General of this State went to prison because of contempt of Court order. If they go ahead with the test, we will file contempt charges against the government of Edo state and we will jail them,” Afolabi said.
The University of Benin (UNIBEN)-venue of the test for teachers in Edo south, was beehive of activities, but mostly for part time students of the University, as very few teachers presented themselves for the test, while accreditation was done at the basement.
Apprehension and fear of the unknown were clearly written on the faces of the teachers seen at the various lecture halls designated for the test. They said they have to come for fear of losing their jobs, should the state government eventually win the case against their Unions.
“My brother, I come oh. What if Oshiomhole wins the case and he sacked us for not coming? Will the Union feed me? That’s why I decided to come and see what is happening,” one of the teachers at the venue said.
One of the accredited teachers who did not want his name in print, said: “I am here to observe. I may perform accreditation and not write the test. It is when you see me in the exams hall that you can accuse me of writing the test.”
Some officials of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), who spoke to press on condition of anonymity, said they were not there to tell the teachers whether to take the competency test or not, adding that as an adult, each teacher would decide whether to take test does or not.
The state commissioner for Higher Education, Washington Osifo who accompanied the chairman of the assessment test committee, Prof. Denis Agbonlahor to the accreditation hall, said the state government was not aware of any court injunction stopping the state government from conducting the test.
“Government is set to conduct the assessment test. Nobody will force anybody to do what is right. The test is in the interest of the teachers and Edo children. We are not aware of any restraining order stopping the test. An attempt to get an order does not in itself translate to an order stopping the conduct of the test,” Osifo said.
It would be recalled that Edo Sate government in a press statement released on Friday, insisted that the test would hold as scheduled, even though the National Industrial Court of Nigeria sitting in Abuja has restrained the government and the Committee it set up to conduct the test from doing so pending the hearing and determination of suit brought before it by the teachers.
Ruling on a Motion Ex-parte brought by Counsel to the secondary schools teachers; Olayiwola Afolabi, the National Industrial Court, presided over by Justice B. A. Adejumo, granted an interim order of injunction restraining the defendants, whether by themselves, agents, servants or privies from conducting any competency test for the claimants/applicants pending the determination of the substantive suit.
“An interim Injunction restraining the defendants from carrying out any act covertly or covertly or doing anything inconsistent with the present employment of the claimants/applicants either by withholding their salaries, allowances and or any of their entitlements or terminating their appointments on the competency test pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice herein is hereby ordered,” the Court said.
The Court also ordered that neither of the claimants/applicants nor any of the defendants shall involve itself in any act of commission or omission that may lead to break down of law and order as a result of the subject matter contained in the Motion Exc-parte or Motion on Notice.